The best position battle in training camp cannot really be evaluated during camp. That is at punter, where much is determined in game competition. The Eagles return Chas Henry, but also signed former Pro Bowler Mat McBriar to compete with Henry.
"Pretty much right now 50-50,” special teams coordinator Bobby April told reporters about the punting competition. “I have them working to get back because he has not punted much in a long time. He is kind of getting his strength back. We are going to gauge it and he will gauge it more than I am about how much he needs. I think with how we practice once a day and not like the old camp, these guys won't punt as much in camp anyway. The schedule does not permit it."
One area to watch is holding. McBriar had two different stints in Dallas when he was a holder, but not while Bill Parcells coached. (Queue the ill-fated Tony Romo bobbled snap.) In 2009, kicker Nick Folk had an issue with McBriar’s holding.
"We are going to try to work on more and more holding as we go and some of the situations that can happen as a holder,” April said.
Both punters can ably hold. Once the punting is evaluated, April said he would speak with kicker Alex Henery to gauge his preference for a holder.
“It won't be a deal-breaker because both guys can hold,” April said. “When there's a big separation in their ability to hold, obviously it's more of a factor. But absolutely I will get his feedback and relay it to the head coach because it's important. To me, that's the biggest play in football right now. So many games come down, the real gut-check games come down to a field goal and so many games now are so close. Boy, that play, you better get that play in, you better get that play successful.”
Other tidbits from April…
**Returners are also difficult to evaluate at this point because the Eagles are not practicing special teams at full speed. The catching can be analyzed, but not the running and decision-making. Bobby April mentioned Damaris Johnson is the Eagles’ No. 1 punt returner at this point. April compared Johnson to Eric Guliford, who April coached on the Saints in the late 1990s. They were both diminutive return threats.
“Now Eric is not like Damaris because he's not nearly as fast or nearly as quick, but he gets to every ball,” April said. “They don't hit the ground, they don't roll. He makes good decisions. Reminds me of him more than any of the other ones for that reason. He's got a break on that ball and he's there in position. It almost doesn't matter where it's kicked."
**The top kick returner at this point is Brandon Boykin, who April compared to former Pro Bowler Tyrone Hughes. The Eagles are also intrigued with Mardy Gilyard at kick returner. Gilyard was a player who impressed the Eagles in college.